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Enough to be like Enoch

Our culture loves to hear stories of brief brushes with the rich and famous. We seek our five minutes of fame as if those precious moments were the climax of a life well-lived. We glory in glorious moments. We live for the next promotion, the next phase of life, the next upgrade.

Into this scene, the description of the life of Enoch sounds as uncommon and un-glorious as a comma. Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:24). Precious little the writer of Genesis captured about his 365 year life in the genealogy between Adam and the great flood. Precious little, but precious, indeed.

My favorite commentator, MacLaren, summarizes these brief verses intended to capture a long life well.

” ‘He walked with God.’ That is all. There is no need to tell what he did or tried to do, how he sorrowed or joyed, what were his circumstances. These may all fade from men’s knowledge as they have somewhat faded from his memory up yonder. It is enough that he walked with God.”

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Oh, how I wish my heart were constantly content to merely walk with God. Rather, I find raging within me obnoxious ambitions to do some great thing, to know some great thing, to leave a mark. These selfish flames have only grown with the added fuels of our cultural idols to stand out, to compete, to be successful according to the world’s measuring rod.

Over and against my ego-filled self and our ego-fueled culture, the life of Enoch stands out in its purity and simplicity of purpose. It seems it was enough for Enoch to walk simply with His God.

Paul commends such a simple, quiet life with God to the Thessalonians.

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification…But we urge you, brothers,.. to aspire to life quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-3 & 10-12. 

This week, as I have been pondering  the profound simplicity and beauty of Enoch’s life, I have found myself praying that it would be enough for me to be like Enoch.

Enough to be like Enoch

Nearly four hundred years of life
Collapsed into a four-word phrase.
We know little about him except
He walked with God all his days.

He neither needed notoriety,
Nor panted after human praise.
Were it enough to be like Enoch,
Fully content under God’s gaze. 

His life was not marked by goods,
He did not chase accolades.
Were it enough to be like Enoch,
In fellowship that never fades.

To be content in His company,
To be satisfied with His smile.
Were it enough  to be like Enoch,
Walking with God mile by mile.

Whatever the span of days
Between my first and last,
May they be summed up simply:
She to her Christ held fast. 

 

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A Responsive Life

In a world of full agendas, forceful initiatives and frightful busyness, we need free agents, those who have the time, space and energy to respond.

The desire to be flexible and available means that, as a wife and mother, I play a more responsive role than I would have chosen for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I make plans and routines. However, they are often changed based on the needs of the moment in the lives of those around me.

A kiddo with a tummy ache; a friend who needs a babysitter; a husband who needs someone with whom to verbally process life and calling; a pantry that was suddenly emptied by extra guests at dinner; a student who needs a place to cry and escape the pace of college life.

There are days when this responsive life feels both full and fulfilling. There are also days when I feel like a spare part while all the other parts around me have a clearly defined role and niche.

What can feel like a boring and highly unproductive afternoon for me often means an afternoon of space and creativity for my boys. Pictures drawn, Lego worlds created, canyons explored.  Some days that knowledge itself is enough for me; other days, not so much.

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The garden helps: a small domain where I can exercise dominion and make the calls. Exercise helps:  a chance to sweat out the cabin fever. Books help: a chance to keep my brain sharp and engaged. Good friends help: knowing there are others in other neighborhoods  fighting to leave space for a responsive life takes some of the isolation away.

But none of the helps can do what the presence of Christ does. In Him and Him alone, I am reminded and convinced that this is the good life, simply because it is the life He has called me to for this season.

A quote by Alan Jones taped in the spice cabinet of Jan Peterson, wife of Eugene Peterson, reminded me to stay the course in this unclear role this past week.

“To live no tight, neat role is truly sacrificial, it is also truly creative because it leaves us open and free (dare we say) like God Himself.”

Nearly a decade into motherhood, a clear, compelling job description and a business card in which I can place (or misplace) my significance continue to evade me. However,week by week, I experience sweet moments that hold me here in the realm of the responsive. An excited child dragging me down the street to proudly show me some strange creation of sticks and rocks; a sick child giving me a tired but thankful glance as I administer medicine and hugs; a husband who can stop by for lunch when an appointment gets cancelled: these are the perk of being a free agent in God’s kingdom.

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I have so much to learn from these homebodies I am raising. The joy of the small things, the safety of a routine with wide margins, the ability to see magic where most see monotony.

In this responsive life, I model the life of the God who graciously responds to His creatures. Seen in that light, this is no small job but a little slice of the divine life.

Being a free agent is harder than I had surmised yet simultaneously satisfying and sanctifying.

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Behold Your King!

The hedges are humming, the SoCal super bloom is stunning because Spring is coming.

After several weeks of uncharacteristic rains (enough to end a 7-year draught), Spring is in the air in San Diego. Everywhere I look, I see birds crookedly flying, proudly carrying large twigs or strings to add to burgeoning nests.

It is with great joy that my heart is welcoming Spring this year, as it is providing a physical type of the rebirth that comes only through Christ. If I had a red carpet, I would roll it out to welcome this new season with its brave blossoms and fledgling flyers.

We gladly welcome and receive the Spring, and we similarly began receiving our Savior in the Triumphal Entry; only our welcome did not last long. Our shouts of Hosanna were traded for horrible jeers.

The venerable King became vulnerable for us. Oh, how this ought to bring us far more wonder than the onset of Spring!

Behold Your King!

Come now, hopeful crowds, 
Your palm branches sway.
Throw your cloaks His way.
              The Valuable Venerable,
              The Revered Royalty:
Behold your King!

Go then, crazed crowds,
Stop your voices raising,
Halt your horrible hazing.
          The Vulnerable Venerable,
          The Ravaged Royalty:
Behold your King!

Come now, weeping women,
Lay your anointing oils aside.
Touch His hands and His side.
         The Vivified Venerable,
         The Risen Royalty:
Behold your King!

He comes, pallor pilgrims,
Your wanderings will cease.
He will bring the final peace.
           The Victorious Venerable,
           The Returning Royalty:
Behold your King!

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Come and Eat

I cook dinner. A lot. I set the table a lot. I yell downstairs for my boys to come up for dinner. A lot. I get frustrated when they ignore me and come late to a cold plate. But all the frustration wipes away (sometimes quickly, sometimes gradually) when they finally join me for family dinner. For, on my best days, it is their faces that I want, not simply mouths to be fed.

I do this to the Lord regularly. He prepares lavish feasts for me in His word. He prompts me with His Spirit, prodding me, patiently pleading with me to come. I drag my heals, convincing myself I did not hear His divine dinner bell. I tarry at my own urgent tasks until my stomach aches with hunger and my energy dissipates. Then, I come to the table to see His forever forgiving face, and wonder why I ever hesitated to drop everything and run to our divine date.

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Divine Dates

The laundry, it can wait.
I simply cannot be late.
He has prepared a plate
For our daily divine date.

Often I’ve neglected Him
Our times I’ve begun to trim,
Chasing each lesser whim.
Yet in His love I still swim.

His love – it’s disconcerting.
He keeps faithfully asserting,
And jealously diverting
Lovers who’ve been flirting. 

So, I, though still part beast,
Come to my lover’s feast
With wonder uncreased,
And joy ever increased. 

Stay here awhile, my soul,
For life does take a toll.
Feast on the Divine dole.
In Him be made whole. 

George Herbert, much more poetically and perfectly, shares the same sentiment in the last poem of The Church. 

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
     Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
     From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
     If I lack’d anything.

A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here:
     Love said, You shall be he.
I the unking, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
    I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
    Why made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marr’d them; let me shame
     Go where it doth deserve,
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
    My dear, then  I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
     So I did sit and eat. 

Today,  in the midst of the tyranny of the urgent and even the good desire to work for the Lord, may we take a stolen moment to gaze upon the One whose gracious gaze is never diverted from us.

You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat. We must sit and eat.

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Make This Rock Cry

The Pharisees chided Him for letting the crowds cheer in excitement at His entry into Jerusalem, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” Rather than rebuke, Christ responded, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40).

He then proceeded to weep over the city of Jerusalem, for their hearts were harder than rocks. Lest we point the finger too quickly, we must remember that our hearts are equally rock solid and steeled by sin.

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After a book of prophecy largely devoted to the guilt of His people, the Lord prophecies a hope-filled word through the prophet Ezekiel.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey  my rules. You shall dwell in the and that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36: 26-28. 

The Lord knew how to call it. We see hints here at the coming Redeemer who, though He could have easily made inanimate rocks and boulders worship Him, much preferred to redeem rocky-hearted people.

As Ezekiel dimly foresaw and declared, God would give new hearts to those hardened by sin. Those who throw themselves and their present lives as well as their eternal livelihood upon Christ are given new hearts, new identities and the indwelling promised Holy Spirit.

However, even redeemed hearts have rocky places, stiffened by sin. As we continue in Lent in our approach to the Easter season, I  find myself praying Christ would make the rock-hard places of my own heart cry out to Him.

Today, I came upon the beautiful poem by Christina Rossetti below which echoes this sentiment.

Good Friday

Am I stone and not a sheep
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross, 
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
    And yet not weep?

     Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly; 
    Not so the thief was moved;

    Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon,
    I, only I. 

    Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
     And smite a rock.

In the midst of the busyness of life, may we not miss the procession of His presence in our own lives. May Christ cause redeemed yet rocky hearts to cry out in worship. May He smite the places in our hearts that are sin-solid, softening them with the kneading of His Word.

 

 

 

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An Hachiko Heart

Y’all. Our dog is insane. We brought this mixed breed pup home when he was just a tiny brown little buddy. He had extra folds of skin on tiny face and huge paws, which should have alerted us to the thoroughbred of a dog he would eventually become. He has a ridiculous underbite which completely counteracts his scary bark. He has a whip of a tail that is his only real weapon, wielded in excited love for any and all who enter our home (except the mail man or woman, who are his sworn enemies).

He was named Mater after the affectionately annoying TowMater from Cars which was popular with our little toddler sons when he came home to be a part of our family. The name fits shockingly well.

Besides the goofy name, he puts up with a lot of ridiculousness in our mad house. He is regularly dressed in costumes and brought into forts and battle scenarios, but he does so in as regal a way as possible.

I walk him nearly every day. Scratch that. He daily drags me around the neighborhood as he chases stray cats and the love and affection of all passersby. On the rare occasions that I am out late, Mater waits for me at the front door.

Even though his breath smells something fierce and he takes our already full and frenetic house to a whole different level of Seismic silliness, I love this dog.

And I learn a lot from him. More than I care to admit, I see myself in him.

Despite the fact that we walk the same route everyday and he knows what to expect, he refuses to stay next to me or comfortably near me. He pulls at his leash until he is nearly exhausted (yes, we know you can train them otherwise, but what with potty training two humans and such, his training fell to the wayside). Then he finally slows down and decides to stay by my side.

Daily, I laugh at him until I remember that I do the exact same thing with the Lord. In excitement or self-reliance or impatience (depending on the day), I run ahead of Him and yank and pull. When I am finally tired enough, I slow down to remember that it is God’s presence that is my joy and my delight. I start to follow the pace He sets for me. Then I wake up and play out the whole scenario yet again.

Thinking about our goofy Mater reminded me of an even more loyal, precious dog, Hachiko. Hachiko was brought from the countryside to live in Tokyo with a professor named Ueno Hidesaburo. The dog would daily meet his owner at that station from which he would arrive back home from his work commute. One day, the professor died mid-lecture, but Hachiko continued to arrive at the station daily at the time his owner would have arrived.

He continued this act for 9 years, 9 months and 15 days. His loyalty has been heralded in all of Japan.

I find my heart longing to be to the Lord as Hachiko was to his master.

Grant me an Hachicko heart, 
Wanting nothing more than thee, 
Willing to wait and wait and wait,
Longing in Thy presence to be. 

The Scriptures are replete with the word wait. In the slow unfolding of the Old Testament, God’s people waited with bated breath for even a glimpse of the coming Messiah. After the Coming of Christ to the earth for the first time, God’s people have the great privilege of looking back upon the face of the Messiah who came through reading the Scriptures.

Yet, we, too, wait. We wait for His second coming when tears will be wiped away and death will be no more. More than the sweet effects of His coming, we long for Him, our Master. We long to see the lines on His face and touch the beautified scars in His strong hands. We long to walk bodily beside our Master for the first time.

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food and feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.” Isaiah 25:6-9. 

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Plot 59

A life remembered for an Olympic platform ended in plot 59. On crude cross fashioned from repurposed scrap wood, shoe polish spelled out his name. Born and buried in two very different Chinas, Eric Liddell’s life ended in a prison camp, far from the athletic prowess and pomp by the world tends to remember him.

Though he is best known for his story as captured in the movie Chariots of Fire, the remainder of Eric Liddell’s life secures for him a legacy that continues to send ripples far into eternity.

Born to Scottish missionaries living in China, Eric always called the Chinese his people. As such, he stepped away from his burgeoning athletic career when it was at its height of potential to head back to China as missionary of the London Missionary Society.  There, he taught in a Bible college where he met his much younger wife, Florence. After a long engagement during which Florence was trained abroad as a nurse, the two were married. Shortly thereafter, the couple welcomed two daughters, Patricia and Heather.

During their early years as a family, Eric spent the majority of his time as a traveling missionary in the remote villages far away from the safety and comfort of the missionary   compound where his family stayed. When the tensions between the Japanese and the Chinese escalated during World War II, the families of the LMS missionaries were sent to safety.  Eric Liddell bravely packed up his family on a Japanese ocean liner to head to Canada while he himself stayed in a tenuous China in hopes that things would resolve quickly.

Ever the optimist and the committed missionary and pastor to his remote people, Liddell had no way of knowing how bad the situation in China would grow.  He and all other ex-patriots were sent to Weihsien, a former Presbyterian missionary compound turned Japanese internment camp.  Separated from his family and missing the birth of his third daughter, Maureen, Liddell served as an in situ pastor, missionary, friend, honorary uncle, peacemaker, and confident to the other internees.

Multiple years of the malnourishment of prison camp life and a brain tumor that was undiagnosed, led Liddell to an early death.  Even up until the day he died, Liddell was teaching others the way of discipleship to Christ, despite immense physical and emotional pain. The last words he spoke were, “It is complete surrender,” and the last words he scribbled in his journal were, “All will be well.”

At his funeral, the Salvation Army band that was also interned at the camp played his two favorite hymns, Abide with Me and Be Still My Soul, whose lyrics he had made watchwords of his missionary life.

In a world and culture obsessed with fame and fortune, Eric Liddell modeled a life hidden in Christ and committed to His glory. At great cost to himself and his precious family, Liddell ran a very different race than the one the world and his own flesh might have marked out for him.

Rather than use his worldwide platform as an Olympic gold medalist to cushion his nest egg and/or his ego, Liddell stood on it to declare the gospel to audiences who would have never stepped foot in a church. He ran from fame and wealth into obscurity and poverty because of a greater affection for His Savior who modeled downward mobility.

A quiet life lived in daily, costly surrender to Him landed him in Plot 59 outside an obscure prison camp. No matter. The athlete had completed his most significant race.

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For I am already being  poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I  have kept the faith. Henceforth, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which  the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8.   

 

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Limping Into Lent

Having grown up in Catholic schools, Lent was laced into my internal calendar, even if I had no real idea what it meant.

I remember giving up chocolate or soda for Lent. While I wish I could say I gave them up because I understood the Lenten season, I think I gave them up more for the potential by-products of clearer skin or dropping an inch or two. That being said, I am grateful to have been tuned to the liturgical calendar, as it now means much more to me.

Similar to Advent which prepares our heart for the Coming of the Christ, Lent is a 40-day season of preparation meant to mirror the 40-day temptation of Christ in the wilderness. While it was likely practiced as early as Apostolic times, it was not made official Church stuff until the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Initially it was a time of preparation for those seeking to be baptized into the Christian Church, which explains its focus on self-control and evaluation.

While I no longer give things up for Lent, I do look forward to it as an evaluative season, as a chance to reset my rambunctious heart on Christ, the Redeemer.

This year, Lent has snuck on me and caught me tired and treading water. I have let my schedule full  of ministry and good things outgrow my intimacy with Christ. And I am worn and weary.

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As much as I want to appear like someone who has prepared well for 40 days of poignant study of myself, the Scriptures and the Saviour,  I am limping into Lent.

But it is better that I am limping, as Lent wasn’t meant to be a pageant of our self-righteousness or a parade of our own powers of self-control. Lent was meant to be a searching time, a time of repositioning under His powers, a regular reminder of His righteousness.

Just as Christ was sent into the His wilderness temptation after being assured of His standing before His Father, it is right that I should head into Lent assured of the Father’s pleasure before any preparation.

Lent and Light

The Scriptures continually mention the fact that we will all one day stand before the Lord in His exposing brilliant holiness.

You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
Psalm 90:8. 

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4: 13.

While this day will come for every human, the Christian is meant to invite the light.

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. John 3: 20-21. 

Lent means coming to the Light, which sounds lovely but feels like exposure.

Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults; keep back your  servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion  over me. Then, I shall be blameless and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19: 12-14.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24. 

The Christian can invite the search light of the Scriptures in the hand of the Holy Spirit to come and search his or her heart because of our confidence in the cleansing blood of the perfect Christ.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Psalm 51:1-2.

Because of Christ’s ability to resist the Enemy’s temptations to shortcuts to the glory, power and provision of the Father, I can enter 40 days of exposure with expectancy and joy!

Speaking of his own preparation for Lent, Frederick Buechner wrote the following, which I have made the watchword for my limping into this Lent.

“To hear yourself try to answer questions like these is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be pretty depressing business all in all, but if sackcloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end.”

 

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Envy & Enough

Old habits die hard.  Having spent the greater part of 18 years garnering praise through performance and confidence through competition, my heart sometimes slips back into old ways.

This past week, I found myself spending time with my dear old (very, very old) friends Miriam and Jacob. As much as I hate to admit it, I have so much of both of them in me.

Miriam, the prophetess sister of Aaron, was given a privileged place in the biblical story.  It was she who beautifully followed Moses’ lead by leading the women of Israel in their own complementary song of deliverance after crossing the Red Sea. What an incredible honor! Yet, like all biblical characters, we see not only her bright side, but her shadow self. In Numbers 12, we are given glimpses deep into the heart of Miriam.

Miriam and Aaron  spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it.  Numbers 12: 1-2.

Strangely, Miriam is named first and the punishment for the bitter thoughts fell only to her. As such,  it is safe to say that Miriam stirred up this strife and brought her brother into it with her. Scholars tend to agree that, at this time, Zipporah was likely dead. As such, Miriam had even more influence over Moses and the movement of God’s people. Until he married a new wife. Perhaps she felt eclipsed or threatened? Either way, it seems that she had forgotten her privileged place and began to hunger for more.

While I have no plans to lead an insurrection, my heart does sometimes chaff against the arrangements of God. Rather than being filled with awe at the places of influence I have been given as a woman, I sometimes buy the same lie that Eve succumbed to in the Garden all those generations ago. I start to doubt that God is for me and begin to be pulled into a litany of lies: I have to go get my own,  I have to secure my own spot, He may be withholding, so I must demand more than I have been graciously given. 

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In his own way,  Jacob believes the same lies. A conniver and contriver from the  beginning, he is constantly grasping, trying to secure the blessing on his own. For with the blessing, it seems that Jacob believed he would find the identity, significance and security he so clearly chased his entire life. He grasped his brother’s heel in the womb, stole his brother’s birthright, and spent the rest of his life trying to garner blessing.

Until Genesis 32 where  He encounters the Lord. This time, Jacob looks for the blessing, demands the blessing from the right source.

But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?”And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men and prevailed.” Genesis 32: 26-28. 

Thus the sun set on Jacob and rose on Israel.

His very next human encounter shows just how much his encounter with God transformed him.

Jacob,  the one who had once cunningly stole the blessing from Esau, now begs to offer him blessing. His envy, his grasping, his working to gain that which could only be given had been stopped by  the God who had given him enough. The God who was enough.

“Please accept my blessing  that is brought to you, because God  has dealt graciously  with me and because I have enough.” Genesis 33: 11 (emphasis mine).

When we find Him to be enough, our envy, our striving, and our competing shrivel before a sufficient Savior.  His storehouses stop our compulsive striving. His giving halts our greedy grabbing.

Enough Erases Envy

I am loath to admit it, Jacob,
In your resemblance I am dressed.
Striving, conniving to be blessed.
But in His blessing we learn to rest.

Your leprosy lurks in me, Miriam,
Your bitterly grasping for more,
Missing the privilege set before.
But by grace, He can fully restore.

Yes, the very ones you envied
Became instruments of grace.
Esau, forgiving, kissed your face.
Moses begged the curse to erase.

For envy loses its painful poison
When set in an abundant place.
Selfishness is expelled by grace,
When we look full at your face.

 

 

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Divine Discontentment

Usually when we think of discontentment, it rides upon waves of negative connotations. However, discontentment can be both right and righteous when it refers to hungering for more of God: His presence, His ways, His Word.

A holy hungering for more of Him, a desire to experience and know more of His character and to see more of His handiwork in our lives, these are evidences of the stirring of God’s Spirit.

Psalm 85 provides a picture of such divine discontentment.

What Had Been
This particular psalm, attributed to the sons of Korah, was likely written shortly after God’s people were returned to their land from a long Babylonian captivity.  One can imagine the poet-songwriter (s) standing in front of a familiar field, reminiscing what it had once been and recognizing what it had currently become.

Much like homeowners who have evacuated land for a hurricane returning to a home at once familiar and foreign after all the damage, the recently returned exiles were likely filled with mixed emotions. Delight to be home on their own soil mixed with devastation at the decline of what had once been.

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Fields that were once fertile and well-tended were likely overgrown with wild growth. Homes that had once been tidy were reduced to heaps.  The Psalmist knew that all that had once been was only to be attributed to God’s hesed, His favor, His special love for His covenant people.

Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. You withdrew all your wrath; you  turned from your hot anger.  Psalm 85: 1-3. 

The fruitful fields were a result of the face of God turned toward His people.

What Could Be

Remembering what was once, the psalmist moves into a holy discontent for the present. It was not enough that God had delivered them back from Babylon. Rather, the writer hungers for God’s face and His presence once again.  He doesn’t think it well enough that God had once been near to His people in the former generations. He boldly asks God to come and do it again with this generation.

Restore us again,  O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. Psalm 85: 4-7. 

Stories passed down from generations of old left the psalmist wanting to see God show up again, restoring  and  reviving not only the physical soil but also the spiritual soil in the souls of the people.

What Will Be

The sparks of divine discontentment and holy hungering being stoked, become full fires of confident hope in God.

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his  saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely his salvation is near to those who  fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.  Psalm 85:8-9. 

The psalmist is sure that God will turn His people back towards Him, that He will speak shalom which means completeness, soundness, wholeness, peace over His people. He imagines the uniting of disparate things,  heaven and earth,  love and faithfulness,   righteousness and peace. He can almost see fruitful fields restored.

Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.  Psalm 85: 12-13.  

The One who Came

While this psalm was not intended to be messianic in nature, one cannot help but see the hints of the coming redemption in the psalmists longings and hopes. In fact, the language in  v 10-11 bears a strong resemblance to the introduction to John’s gospel where Christ is described as being full of grace and truth (John 1: 14).

The writer was more right than he could have known when he predicted that salvation was near and glory would dwell in the land. Qarob, the Hebrew word translated near in v 9,  can literally be translated as a close relative, a kinsman, a neighbor. In Christ, salvation quite literally became kin, became a human neighbor.  In His tenting among us (also in John 1:14), Christ came near and His glory was among men.

While the psalmist looked ahead to a fuzzy future, we look back upon a crystal clear cross. May we, like the psalmist, be filled with a divine discontentment and a holy hunger for more of His nearness for ourselves and our generation.  Turn us towards your Cross, O Christ.